Serious case review into death of Bristol toddler Jayden Lee Green published
THE report into the death of a young Bristol boy who died after being given methadone by his drug-addicted parents says there was a lack of co-operation between the various agencies dealing with his family.
Jayden Lee Green was found dead in his parents’ bed at their St George home after overdosing on the heroin substitute.
The toddler, who was just a month short of his second birthday, lived with his crack cocaine and heroin-addicted parents Sonia Britton and Jamie Green in a flat.
Britton, 35, and Green, 33, were accused of killing their son in August last year by giving him the drug that they were both prescribed by doctors. After a three week trial, Green was convicted of manslaughter and causing cruelty to a child, and jailed for nine years.
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The jury cleared Britton of manslaughter but convicted her of child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child. She was jailed for four years.
Today, a serious case review was published.
The report said there was a lack of co-operation from Jayden’s parents with all involved in dealing with them. This included drug agencies, midwifery, housing, health visitors, social workers, with regular failure to keep appointments or be home when visits were being made.
The report says: “What was lacking was the authoritative challenge to this lack of co-operation, there was a lack of enforcement of consequences. There was a lack of challenge by practitioners across the range of agencies.
“The only way that his death would definitely have been prevented was if he had been placed away from his parents. The opportunity to do this was lost due to the failure to follow through on the initiation of care proceedings.
“However, a better-planned and authoritative approach to the family may also have prevented his death.”
It was revealed today that Jayden suffered two head injuries – one at seven weeks and one at 11 weeks – and parents gave the same explanation. The report says that this should have raised concerns that the injuries were not accidental.
He also sustained injuries to his face at 21 and 23 months old and again the same explanations were given when he was seen by medical professionals.
At the trial of Britton and Green in June this year, William Mousley QC, prosecuting, told Bristol Crown Court: “While both of them cared about Jayden Lee, he was not their priority. They were drug addicts, whose need for drugs came before Jayden Lee.”
Mr Mousley said that at some point between the night of August 20 and the morning of August 21 Jayden Lee was given the methadone and hours later the little boy was dead.
“That drug was being prescribed to both Sonia Britton and Jamie Green at the time and was kept on the top of a kitchen cupboard where it was out of Jayden Lee’s reach,” he said.
“It must have been given to him by an adult and only Sonia Britton and Jamie Green were in a position to do so. Moreover, scientific inquiries have shown this was not the first time Jayden Lee had taken methadone.
“There is no suggestion that either defendants intended to kill or cause serious harm to Jayden Lee and hence they are not charged with murder.”
Mr Mousley told jurors he was not able to say which defendant gave Jayden Lee the methadone.
“It is clear it was one or the other and you will be able to conclude, we suggest, from all the evidence you hear, that both of them played a part in his death,” he said.
“The prosecution’s case is that they are both guilty of manslaughter.
“After they had been arrested both defendants denied involvement in his death. Both denied giving him methadone and gave no explanation as to how it could have ended up in him.”
Jayden Lee was born on September 18, 2009 and despite his parents being prescribed methadone they were also still taking heroin and crack cocaine throughout 2011.
Mr Mousley said that several different agencies were monitoring the defendants in caring for Jayden Lee but Britton and Green were able to pull the wool over their eyes.
“Of course nobody knew they were giving methadone to their child,” the prosecutor said.
Jurors were shown pictures of the flat and were told that there were bags of rubbish lying around, drug paraphernalia kept in cupboards, crack pipes under the sink, a rolled up cigarette was found in a child’s cot and there were also dirty potties.
The court heard that friends of both defendants said their priorities were drugs and not their son.
Britton would take heroin in the bathroom – away from Jayden Lee – and both smoked crack cocaine at home.
Describing her friend’s view, Mr Mousley said: “Once asleep Sonia would not check him. She seemed happiest when Jayden Lee was asleep. It was her view that Sonia Britton undoubtedly loved Jayden Lee but she loved drugs more.”
When the toddler was found dead in his parents’ bed shortly after midday on August 21, neighbours heard Green shouting and screaming: “Please wake up.”
Mr Mousley said that when paramedics arrived at the flat both parents were visibly distressed.
Britton maintained that her son was alive when she got out of bed at 7am that morning.
Mr Mousley said Green later told one friend: “I feel like killing myself. I really loved that boy. I don’t know what happened.”
A pathologist was not initially able to establish how Jayden Lee had died but when further tests revealed the cause of death as methadone intoxication, Britton and Green were arrested.
Forensic examination of the boy’s hair showed that for several months before his death he had regularly been given methadone, the court was told. Staining on the vest Jayden Lee was wearing when he died was later found to be methadone. DNA testing on one of the bottles of methadone prescribed to Green revealed traces of his son’s DNA.
After they were charged, Green told police: “I never done none of these things.”
And Britton exercised her right to silence and made no comment.
Andrew Langdon QC, defending Britton, said: “Drug addiction has threatened her life throughout. She has suffered a great deal as a result of Jayden Lee’s death.”
Maura McGowan QC, defending Green, said: “He came from a desperately troubled background himself, having been addicted to heroin from the age of 14. Since his incarceration he had become drug-free.”
Jailing Green the Honourable Mr Justice Parker said it was unclear whether Green had given the baby methadone in one hit, or over a period of time. He said the “non-accidental” death arose from Green’s wish to quieten the baby so he (Green) could have some rest.
The judge said Green had aggravated his position by breaking into his flat, when it was a crime scene, and attempting to remove vital evidence.
The judge told Britton that as his mother she knew what was happening and her in-action was caused largely by her drug addiction.